Contact: Kent Keene, Assistant Manager, Lower Midwestern States and Agriculture Policy
Why It Matters: The recovery of wildlife in areas where they had been locally extirpated is worth celebrating. The return of a healthy population of black bears in the Show-Me State is an excellent example of this that all should appreciate. With that appreciation should also come an understanding of the need for management to ensure that the population is kept in balance with biological and social limits. Fortunately, limited hunting seasons, such as the one currently open in Missouri for lucky tagholders, represents an excellent tool to conduct this management.
The air is cooler. The leaves are falling. And for ten days in October, lucky hunters from across the Show-Me State are in the woods right now participating in Missouri’s second annual black bear hunting season. Following the successful recovery of black bears across the Ozarks, thanks in part to the successful management of bear populations in neighboring Arkansas and Oklahoma, and the great work of the Missouri Department of Conservation and its partners, hunters have an opportunity to pursue a species that many Baby Boomers and members of Generation X thought they would never see in Missouri.
The opportunity to pursue black bear in Missouri is an excellent example of conservation success in action. It is also an example of the role that hunters play in ensuring that this success is carried on for generations to come. Hunting is a critical management tool that ensures that populations remain in line with biological and social carrying capacities, providing sportsmen and women an opportunity to experience day afield with these amazing animals while supporting conservation through the American System of Conservation Funding.
This year’s hunting season, which began on October 17 and ends on the 26, follows the same format as last year’s inaugural season in that 400 residents were selected for tags following an application period. Hunters may harvest one black bear during the season. Since MDC issues more permits than the harvest quota allows, hunters are also required to call a phone number prior to each hunting day to ensure that the harvest quota has not been met. Last year, this was not an issue, as only 12 of the 40-bear quota were harvested across the three bear management zones.
The passage of regulations authorizing the first hunting season did not come without controversy. Anti-hunting organizations rallied around false claims that hunting would result in the decimation of bear populations, undermining the restoration efforts. However, these claims were shown to carry little weight when it was realized that the Missouri Department of Conservation, the entity leading black bear restoration and monitoring efforts, was behind the call for a limited hunting season. This was precisely the argument made by the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation’s Kent Keene when he testified before the Missouri Conservation Commission in support of the regulations in 2020, and CSF looks forward to supporting similar opportunities in the future.
Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?